Project Controls from BIM – is this the Holy Grail?

Project Controls from BIM – is this the Holy Grail?

Project Controls is a mix of science and art - a standalone discipline to control what are often large and complex projects with the aim of completing them on time, in budget and to a high quality.

The science is made up of the techniques applied to a project to measure the status and better predict the outcome. The art is that the information is rarely in the right format to make all the necessary analyses, not helped by the fact that the measurements continuously change across the lifecycle of the project.

The information to judge the status of the project and make recommendations for actions is affected by:

So, the challenges in project controls are immense, and that’s before you’re met with the optimistic predictions of the construction team. With margins often low and each party to the contract having their own interpretation of the information to hand, it is hardly surprising that, in spite of the considerable time and effort put into the task, mistakes can, and often are made with the result that projects overrun in time and cost.

What about BIM?

BIM thrives on definition. When you model an object, you have to position it and size it and say what it is. So, while designers prefer not to add items to a drawing until they are fully defined, cost planners and construction teams want to better understand what is required, even if it needs further definition at a later date. BIM provides some key principles to help solve our controls conundrum:

When we manage 3D object information, we are able to enhance it with things like time, work packaging, cost and asset coding etc. to allow us to analyse it, as well as simulate and visualise the outcomes in every which way we choose.

BIM as an enabler for better project controls

The definition in BIM provides a strong foundation that accelerates it beyond its traditional space into that of Integrated Project Controls, for example:

More accuracy and efficiency

So, given the objectives of BIM, why wouldn’t project controls as a function not jump at the opportunity offered by it?  Is it that BIM is often still seen as just pictures or videos? Is it that very few software providers have aligned their thoughts and aspirations to the opportunity and the enablement of Project Controls through BIM? 

What will come first, robust information to enable project controls or the demand for more robust information and consistent processes to feed the opportunity for improved project controls?

One reality is that strong leadership is invariably critical to lead the change. The ultimate aim is to produce the outputs in real time as the exhaust gasses of the process, thereby allowing the project controls team to apply their art while making an experienced judgement based on up-to-date information and analysis of the data from previous projects.  There can hardly be a Client or owner that won’t be keen to achieve this outcome.